Following the procedures outlined in The Lundquist Institute’s Emergency Action Plan, we have created a Special Situation Management Team (SSMT) to lead our Institute’s emergency response efforts. The SSMT is responsible for the continuing assessment of the situation and the development and implementation of plans to address this emergency. The SSMT will be meeting on a daily basis and will be providing a single, daily COVID-19 Coronavirus Update, through at least March 31, 2020. The daily communiques will have topical sections to enable you to go to those portions of the update (below) that are pertinent, including:
- General Guidelines for Research Activities (especially lab personnel)
- General Guidelines for Clinical Research Activities (clinical researchers & staff)
- HR and Payroll and Human Resources (everyone)
- Facilities (everyone)
- Purchasing Guidelines (everyone)
- Personal Health and Safety (everyone)
General Guidelines for Research Activities
Here are some general guidelines and recommendations regarding research activities during these difficult times. The list below is not an exhaustive list but rather is a list of key activities that should help researchers to navigate this emergency situation.
- Each investigator is best positioned to implement a specific plan for her/his research program. Plans should be compliant with the institutional guidelines, yet address the unique characteristics of her/his research program. Investigators should present/discuss plans with all of their laboratory staff.
- Each investigator should identify essential* activities vs all other activities in the research unit that may be critical or desirable but not essential.
- (If not the PIs themselves) designate a technical person in her/his research team to coordinate assignment and implementation of these essential tasks within the research team, and plan accordingly (e.g., order potentially essential reagents, coordination of experiment timelines, etc.)
- Consider delaying of ordering of reagents or animals if not essential for the research program.
- For those investigators in charge of clinical research programs, it is recommended that you follow guidelines circulated by the Compliance office regarding ongoing and new protocols and communications with sponsors.
- Institute a communications strategy with the members of your research team and share contact information including cell phone numbers. Assure that the operator of any given essential experiment understands they are responsible for the safety of the environment in which the experiment is being carried during the whole duration of the experiment and for communicating with her/his supervisor if they are unable to continue an experiment due to personal illness/absence.
- Use telecommuting systems whenever possible.
- Identify a strategy for data access and storage that is applicable to each member of your team.
- Be prepared to have a shortage of staff as the situation evolves. Thus, be prepared to modify the list of essential tasks and communicate it to your team.
- Keep in mind that the situation is rapidly evolving and this may require changes in strategy. You will be receiving updates on a regular basis from the Institute’s Special Situations Management Team (SSMT).
- Contact key suppliers to determine their ability to meet mission critical needs.
*Essential activities are those that must continue to avoid irreparable loss of a research program and that require an operator to be on campus, e.g., tissue culture, cell passaging, animal care, receiving of critical reagents, checking liquid nitrogen levels, etc. These are the activities described previously as activities that are required to “keep things alive”, from cells to animals to humans. Individuals doing these tasks are the only individuals to be on campus and only for the time required to accomplish these tasks.
Other activities, although critical or of importance for continuing the competitive status of the laboratory (e.g., experiments required for paper revisions or grant submissions that have not been started, subcloning, shipment of reagents, etc.), are not essential and therefore should not be implemented.
General Guidelines for Clinical Research
The following are General Guidelines that all clinical research units should review and implement:
- No staff are to come to work sick
- All staff should minimize time at work to that approved by PI and needed to address urgent needs associated with research projects
- Staff meetings should be by teleconference whenever possible, always minimizing face-to-face interactions to as brief a period of time as possible and with only those essential for participation. In addition, staff should maintain a minimum of 6 feet space between each other whenever possible.
- Staff are reminded to have non physical greetings with other staff and study participants as well as comply with frequent/appropriate handwashing
- Each study PI should discuss by email or teleconference with appropriate staff how to minimize study participant and staff exposure to each other and facility while maintaining critical aspects of ongoing studies.
- No new study participants should be enrolled until further notice
- To minimize visits, consideration should be given to converting face-to-face visits to telephone visits, if possible.
- Those on non-interventional studies, e.g., observational or natural history studies requiring face-to-face visits, should have appointments converted to telephone assessments if possible, and if not have appointments delayed as much as feasible based upon study visit windows. In addition, consideration should be given to working with study sponsors to get exemptions to extend the study window if possible. For all visits the PI should agree with necessity and plan.
- Any study participant who misses a visit due to institutional COVID 19 precautions should have a chart note that documents this reason.
- For those who need a study visit, based upon discussion with PI, every effort should be made to minimize number of study visits and exposure during visits to research facilities, staff and other study participants. If visit is deemed necessary by PI, such as for critical study endpoint assessments, to pick up study drug/product, for phlebotomy required for study endpoint, safety, or other study-related testing felt critical to conduct of research, visits should be arranged with below in mind.
- Every effort should be made to have participants avoid using public transportation and that the visit is arranged in such a way as to minimize duration of exposures and number of individuals exposed during the visit. This includes but is not limited to every effort being made to keep participants separated by at least 6 feet from others participants waiting to be seen.
- Those who need to be scheduled for a visit, should be contacted prior to visit to questions about any febrile and/or respiratory symptoms. If such symptoms are present, study participant should be instructed to reschedule the study visit and reach out to their primary provider.
- Participants should be told (if they are ill) that if symptoms increase in severity they should go to ED if necessary.
- Participants who show up for a visit should be met outside building and once again asked about any febrile and/or respiratory symptoms. If present, they should be told that they cannot have their visit that day and provided instructions as noted above and rescheduled
- If participants present when ill and are on study drug and need it for medical or study-related issues, this exchange should occur outside of building and with staff and all other members of community separated from the participant.
Payroll & Human Resources
- Payroll is being processed and will continue to be processed. There will be no disruption of the payroll process. Plans have been implemented to administer the payroll function remotely, if required.
- All employees are encouraged to enroll in direct deposit of their paycheck to prevent any delay in possibly receiving their paycheck and to prevent the need to deposit checks in banks and ATM machines. A direct deposit authorization is attached. Please submit any authorizations via email to Lisa Palacio in Human Resources, along with a copy of a deposit slip or voided check.
- A reminder – any employee who wishes to telecommute should receive approval from their supervisor and supervisors should contact John Munz in Human Resources for implementation details
- For the time being, and subject to further notice, employees who are unable to work as a result of the COVID-19 crisis will continue to be paid. We are currently assessing this situation and will be communicating updates as more clarity is available as to state and federal aid packages. Benefit coverage will continue.
- We recognize that these are unprecedented times which are likely creating significant concerns with employees and their family members. Please remember that The Lundquist Institute has a confidential and free Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to assist employees and their family members with coping with this crisis. Their toll-free phone number is 1-800-316-2796.
As The Lundquist Institute will have reduced staffing for the near future, a few notes on building security:
- Until further notice, doors to all Lundquist Institute buildings will be in “holiday mode”. This means that interior or exterior doors that automatically unlock during working hours will remain locked unless you have the proper key, code or card.
- As you walk in or out of buildings and secured areas, please make sure the door closes and latches completely behind you.
- Please do not allow anyone to follow you into buildings or secured areas -- let them use their own key, code or card.
- If you are aware of any doors or windows that do not close or latch properly, please send an email to Facilities@lundquist.org
- Janitorial services will continue
Due to the Institute’s temporary closure, Purchasing is requesting that anyone purchasing an item using a credit card for delivery to The Lundquist Institute send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so that the Shipping Department is aware the item will be delivered to the MRL Shipping dock. Please ensure that the email includes the following information:
- Recipient’s First and Last Name
- Recipient’s email and phone number
- TLI Building Location and Room Number
- Department Name
- Vendor Information (and brief description of the product)
- Whether the product is perishable
- Estimated date of arrival and courier
Personal Health & Safety
As a reminder, please practice safe practices both at home and elsewhere, including:
- Do not shake hands or have close contact with others
- Stay away from crowds
- Adopt “social distancing”: staying at least 6 feet away from others.
- Cancel all face-to-face conferences and replace them with videoconferencing
- Minimize personal travel, even local.
- Self-monitor for symptoms (cough, fever, and shortness of breath) and seek medical advice if you have them. Call your doctor or ER before going there.
- Adopt “social distancing”: staying at least 6 feet away from others. No handshaking, hugging or other close contact.